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Three Main Factors Why Women Aren’t Taken Seriously At Work

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

Women not being taken seriously at work is a pervasive problem in today’s society. Despite progress in gender equality, women continue to face barriers and discrimination that prevents them from reaching their full potential in the workplace. Some of these are biases and stereotypes, lack of representation and support, and institutional barriers.

A never ending list of barriers 

As for biases and stereotypes, they have become two of the biggest main reasons why women aren’t taken seriously at work. They are often stereotyped as emotional, nurturing, and less competent than their male counterparts. These stereotypes are deeply ingrained in our culture and lead to subconscious biases that affect how women are perceived and treated in the workplace. For example, women may be seen as less capable in leadership roles and/or less deserving of promotions, even when they have the same qualifications and experience as male colleagues.

Another reason that contributes to this dilemma is the lack of representation and support. Women are often underrepresented in leadership positions and other decision-making roles, which can make it difficult for them to be heard and have their ideas taken seriously. Additionally, women may not receive the same level of support and mentorship as men, which can hinder their career growth and advancement.

Institutional barriers also play a significant role. For example, women may face discrimination upon hiring and/or promotion decisions, unequal pay, and a lack of flexibility in the workplace to accommodate caregiving responsibilities. These institutional barriers can create a hostile work environment for women, which can in turn affect their confidence and their ability to be taken seriously by their colleagues.

The evolution of gender discrimination

Gender discrimination, according to Stanford University, is when someone is treated unfairly or disadvantageously based on their gender, although not always in a sexual context. This covers sexual harassment and discrimination as well as harassment based on gender identity or expression. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that forbids employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, sex discrimination is expressly prohibited in the United States. Despite the fact that this historic labor law has provided statewide protections for workers and job candidates for decades, gender discrimination still exists in modern workplaces, disproportionately harming women of color and transgender people. There are several ways that gender inequality in the workplace manifests itself, including disparities in salary, promotions, sexual harassment events, and racism. It frequently manifests itself in subtler ways, such as through diminished chances for moms and a rise in female burnout. Black women, LGBTQA+ women, and other women of color in particular continue to confront barriers when trying to climb into leadership positions. 

In the early 20th century, the majority of American women did not have jobs outside the home, and those who did tended to be young and single. Just 5% of married women were classed as “gainful workers” by the Census Bureau in those days, which amounted to just 20% of all women who were employed outside the home. Nearly all women have historically received extremely low income that is much lower than that of men. In the early 1900s, if a woman was capable of finding a job, it was often interrupted when she gave birth. 

Nonetheless, a woman’s predicted career was extended by decades by the rising need for working women in the mid-to-late 1900s. As a result, more women started enrolling in college and graduate programs in preparation for longer-term careers. Cultural changes were triggered by shifting viewpoints and attitudes toward working women. In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was enacted. For the first time, women were able to apply for credit in 1974 without a male co-signer. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978, and sexual harassment was acknowledged in 1975. Birth control became more widely available, giving a woman more control over motherhood and how they wanted to balance their work and personal lives.

The authority gap

In order to highlight the extent of the difference that still exists between men and women, The Authority Gap offers a stunning viewpoint on the hidden bias at play in our daily lives. Gender norms establish social roles and expectations for how men and women should behave from a young age. When it comes to leadership, old gender preconceptions are the default, and these prejudices are then applied to women in the workplace. Many find it uncomfortable when women act in ways that are stereotypically associated with men in order to be taken seriously, such as when they are forceful, confident, or in command. As a result, when women act in this fashion, they are frequently disparaged as being overbearing, confrontational, or harsh. This restricts a woman’s ability to lead in confidence. 

The “authority gap,” according to Mary Ann Sieghart, a renowned British political journalist represents one of the main factors within this dilemma. She argues that “whatever much we claim to believe in equality, we are nevertheless, in practice, more reluctant to attribute authority to women than to men, even when they are leaders or experts”. Each and every woman has personal accounts of being undervalued, overlooked, patronized, and generally not taken as seriously. For her, the authority gap is “the mother of all gender inequities” as it explains the salary and power discrepancy.

It begin with the presumption that a woman will be less competent than a guy. As a result, they are patronized, undervalued, interrupted, talked over and hence, society is often hesitant to give them credit for their creative contributions. Compared to men, society frequently questions women’s knowledge and are hesitant to acknowledge their authority. After this, it is easy to engage in the “authority gap” without even acknowledging it, because so much of the authority gap is a result of unconscious bias, as Sieghart demonstrates, it is more subtle and challenging to quantify. Even more so, it is a phenomena that is ingrained in us from what our own families teach us and from the dominant culture we are exposed to from a young age, women can be just as guilty of this prejudice in favor of male authority.

Women not being taken seriously at work is a complex issue that requires systemic change. It is important to challenge biases and stereotypes, increase representation and support for women, and address institutional barriers that prevent women from reaching their full potential in the workplace. By working together to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace, we can help ensure that all employees, regardless of gender, are taken seriously and have the opportunity to succeed.

Adriana Quiles is junior at the University of Puerto Rico Recinto de Río Piedras. She's very passionate about female empowerment and feels that Her Campus is her ideal outlet to talk about topics that matter to her and to all women.